Sunday, January 21, 2018

I Was Invited to a Week-End Gathering

First of all, I'm really excited to share the news that The Parallel Case of St. Louis scion society is hosting their first ever Holmes in the Heartland weekend on August 10-12! 

This event is to announce the opening of the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection in the Rare Books Room of the St. Louis Public Library.  The weekend promises scholarly talks on Sherlockian topics, blues, BBQ, tea, history and lots and lots of camaraderie. Registration for the weekend will open in May, but mark your calendars now for a weekend of good times with some great Sherlockians!

What I've dubbed The Irregular Canonical Book Club has really been a topic of conversation over the past two weeks!  I really just meant to set down a goal for myself to get back to the source material of our great hobby, but there are a lot of us out there who want to do the same thing!  So, I guess there should be a few ground rules:

1.  There is no set order, limit or structure to what you have to read to be part of The Irregular Canonical Book Club.  As long as you are going back and reading the Canon for fun in 2018, welcome to the club!

2.  The purpose of this is to motivate ourselves to revisit the Canon and to encourage others to do the same.  If you are looking for a weekly discussion on specific stories, The Hounds of the Internet email list is a great resource for structured discussion.

3.  That's it.  Read the Canon and have fun.

At our Parallel Case meeting yesterday, we talked about all of the adaptations coming to TV and the movies.  There are a lot! 

Elementary returns on April 30.

Miss Sherlock premiers on HBO Asia in April, also.

Will Ferrell's Holmes and Watson will be in theaters in November.

Breakout star of Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown, will star in a series of movies based off of the Enola Holmes mysteries.

And Sherlock Gnomes premieres in movie theaters on March 23.  Burger King currently has toys to go with the animated movie in their kids meals, including a Holmes toy and a Watson toy.

And here's where I'm in a conundrum.  The movie looks bad, really bad.  Lots of fart jokes, boring animation, and characters that strike me as both broad and bland at the same time.

But it's a Sherlock Holmes movie.  There's a part of me that still wants to go see it, just to support Sherlock Holmes getting out there, especially in a medium that introduces him to kids.  Sure, most of the kids are going to enjoy the fart jokes the most, but a few of them just might get a Sherlockian seed planted that grows into the next generation of Sherlockians that are writing books, attending scion meetings, and making great contributions to our hobby.

Luckily, I have a few weeks to decide.  Until then, I'll just pick up my Burger King toy to add to the bookshelf. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Come Along, And Show What You Can Do

Well, the BSI Weekend is over, and people are making their ways back home.  The New York Times posted a nice write up of the weekend yesterday, which is great for folks like me that followed the events from the warmth of our own houses. 

News also broke this week that Millie Bobby Brown of the Netflix hit, Stranger Things, has signed a multi-picture deal to play Enola Holmes, Sherlock's younger sister, based off of the book series by Nancy Springer.

Speaking of books, that brings me to this week's topic: reading.  (This topic probably doesn't come as a surprise to frequent readers of the blog.  In fact, I almost named the blog "I Am An Omnivorous Reader")  Two weeks ago, I posted my list of Sherlockian resolutions, and one of them in particular got some specific feedback. 

Apparently, I'm not the only Sherlockian out there who is tackling the Canon this year.  I received tweets and emails from other folks who are even more ambitious than I am, and are planning on doing all 56 short stories and 4 novels!  And, why not?  These stories are what link all of us to our hobby.  Sure, it's easy to get caught up in new TV shows, pastiches and movies, or analyze the writings through scholarly writings, but how often do we just go back and reread the original stories for fun?

The impetus for me trying to reread a story a week this year was that I found I was only reading the stories to prepare for society meetings, so I would be refreshed on the plot and details.  My purpose for reading was to go into discussions armed with topics and minutiae for the group.  Now, I'll still do that to prepare for meetings, but I want to spend the rest of the year reading these stories for fun.  Because these are fun stories! 

Well, most of them (Looking at you, Veiled Lodger.)

So, join us this year!  You don't have to try and tackle the whole Canon or set a goal to read a story a week, but pick up the Canon and revisit some great fun.  Because we wouldn't be doing this if it weren't fun, right?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

About Being a Sherlockian: An Interview with Chris Redmond

Yesterday was the date generally recognized as Sherlock Holmes' birthday.  People all across the world celebrated in their own ways.  I was lucky enough to have breakfast and then lunch with two different groups of Sherlockians for very different purposes.  I can't imagine a better way to celebrate the Great Detective's birthday than spending time with other Sherlockians.

Steve and Rusty Mason of Dallas' scion society, The Crew of the Barque Lone Star, were passing through the St. Louis area on their way to the BSI Weekend in New York.  They had dinner Friday night with some members of The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn and The Parallel Case of St. Louis, but I was unable to attend.  Luckily for me, they wanted to meet the next morning and we had a great time.  I'd never met either of these guys in person before, but I work with Steve on The Beacon Society and have communicated with him a lot.  After two and a half hours, we had to break up our little get together so they could get on the road, and I had my next appointment for the day.  I gave them a copy of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and they gave me copies of the two newest installments of Baker Street Elementary, as well as some authentic Texas beer.  I wish I could've spent more time with them.  Steve and Rusty are some great guys, and if the Dallas area Sherlockians are half as cool as them, there's a pretty great scion down there!

The second part of my day was meeting with other members of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, my home scion.  We are in the process of planning a Sherlockian event, and sat down to meet in person.  As the five of us hashed out ideas and made decisions, I had to take a second to pinch myself to realize how lucky I am to be part of this group.  While none of us at the table were fresh out of college, we were what I presume to be "young" by Sherlockian standards.  All of us have very different careers, from the opera to the library to the medical field, and we all have our own Sherlockian origin stories.  One member of the planning committee has been a part of The Parallel Case for over 20 years, while another just got into this in 2016.  But everyone at the table was working towards a common goal: to create an event that celebrates Sherlock Holmes and allows for Sherlockians to come together and meet new people.  Needless to say, I'm very excited not just about the people I'm working with, but the project we are working on.   I am hoping that we can announce our project by next month.  Stay tuned!

But all of this is just a lead up to this week's post.  My day with Dallas and St. Louis Sherlockians really drove home what a great, welcoming, and different community we are.  And there is a new book out that celebrates that.  Chris Redmond is one of our living treasures in Sherlockiana.  Not only is he knowledgeable and has an impressive output, but he is always welcoming to new members of our little hobby.  Chris has spent the last few years very active on Twitter openly discussing Sherlockiana with newcomers as well as editing two books about the Canon and Sherlockiana as a whole.  Both of these books (as well as a forthcoming third) include a mixture of old guard and fresh faces.  Chris was also the mastermind behind the internet's first big Sherlock Holmes site,  He has published too many books to mention here, but a quick Amazon search of his name will make your TBR list explode.

As I read Chris' latest collection, About Being a Sherlockian (which, full disclosure, I have an article in), I had so many questions about the curation of the project.  Chris was kind enough to answer my questions via email last week, and I am happy to share his insights with you now.

The newest anthology you've edited, About Being a Sherlockian, is about the different avenues that Sherlockiana takes in our daily lives.  What is your definition of a "Sherlockian"?

Well, a Sherlockian is somebody who’s seriously interested in Sherlock Holmes. Beyond that, I try to address this question somewhat in my Introduction to the new anthology, but really the whole book was created in an attempt to answer it.

How did you become a Sherlockian yourself?

Quite recently I’ve realized that I may have had my first exposure to Sherlock Holmes through the wonderful children’s book Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks, of which I currently have three copies on my shelves. After that, I read the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in my early teens, as so many people do, or at least did in my generation. Most of them grow out of it, but a lucky few never do, and that was me. I’ve been an active Sherlockian now since 1964.

What sparked this project into being?

About Being a Sherlockian is a successor to About Sixty, the anthology I produced last year with essays by 60 Sherlockians each championing one of the original 60 Canonical tales as “the best”. I had so much enjoyment out of that project, and the idea of a book by 60 diverse Sherlockian authors was so well received, that I was eager to do it again, and I thought it would be a compelling way to describe the breadth and diversity of Sherlockian life.

How did you choose the sixty participants and their topics for About Being a Sherlockian?

The new book includes 19 authors who also appeared in About Sixty, and 41 newcomers. I tried to cover as many different aspects of Sherlockiana as possible, so I looked for a collector or two, a society organizer or two, a librarian, a pastiche author, an actor, and so on. I also tried for diversity in age and geography, and a balance of the sexes. The majority of the authors, though not all, are people I know as friends, either in person or through online activity.

How did you choose to arrange the sixty essays in the book?

It took a while to think that through, but eventually I grouped them into five sections, with names evocative of the five books of canonical short stories: “The Advent of Sherlock Holmes” with an emphasis on how people first met Holmes and how they have grown in this community; “The Members”, mostly about Sherlockian societies; “The Retooling”, about new understandings of Sherlock Holmes and new ways of being a Sherlockian; “His Latest Bows”, about some individual variations and explorations; and “The Book-Case”, about Sherlockians as authors, readers, and traffickers in books.

I know all sixty essays are your favorite for different reasons, but are there some that stick out for particular reasons?

There’s such a variety that it’s impossible to rank them. This book has four essays by authors who are fairly well known outside just the Sherlockian world, and I was glad to get them involved early — they added credibility as the book took shape. But many of the other 56 pieces are gems too. Someone said this week that they were brought to tears twice reading the book, by the words of Mattias Boström and Tim Johnson, and I can understand why. I’m also proud to have included a memorable, flag-planting essay by Elinor Gray, an advocate of Holmes as “queer detective”; a touching reminiscence by John Sherwood about his experiences impersonating Holmes; and the wonderful “The Bones of Justice” by Carlina de la Cova.

You aren't a Sherlockian that lets the grass grow underneath him.  What projects are on the horizon for you?

There will be a third 60-author anthology next year, Sherlock Holmes Is Like, with essays comparing Sherlock Holmes to figures of history, mythology and literature, including Houdini, Robin Hood, Hamlet, Doctor Who, and Peter Pan. The authors will include many veterans of the first two collections, but about half of them will be newcomers.

No matter the subject matter, if Chris Redmond is behind the project.  You know it's going to be good!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

This Resolution of Mine

Well, we find ourselves at the end of another year, looking into the beginning of a new one.  At the beginning of 2016, I wrote about Sherlockian New Year's resolutions over on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, but conveniently didn't publicize what my particular goals for the year were. 

I'm a To Do list kind of person, so to hold myself accountable, here are my Sherlockian goals for 2018:

First things first.  Sherlockiana is all rooted in the Canon.  Every time I return to one of the original stories, I thoroughly enjoy my time there and realize that I don't know them as well as I think I do.  But it's so easy to get distracted by other writings, media interpretations and discussions about Sherlockiana.  So, I am resolving to read one story a week this year: 52 short stories by the end of the year.  Even if I fall short, I still feel like I'm going to be sitting pretty.  For anyone interested, here is my schedule for the first few months:

Jan 7      The Adventure of the Three Students 
Jan 14    The Adventure of the Copper Beeches 
Jan 21    The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
Jan 28    The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
Feb 4     The Adventure of the Crooked Man
Feb 11   The Adventure of the Gold Pince Nez 
Feb 18   The Adventure of the Resident Patient
Feb 25   The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
Mar 4     Silver Blaze 
Mar 11  The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter 
Mar 18  The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
Mar 25  The Adventure of the Final Problem
Apr 1     The Adventure of the Empty House
Apr 8     The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
Apr 15   The Adventure of the Abbey Grange 
Apr 22   The Adventure of the Dancing Men
Apr 29   The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
May 6    The Adventure of the Cardboard Box 
May 13  The Adventure of the Second Stain 
May 20  The Adventure of the Priory School
May 27  The Adventure of Black Peter

And now that The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street is out and the initial promotion is over, I wanted to come up with something novel to keep it interesting for folks out there.  For that, I've created a Facebook page for The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street.  Starting on January 1, you will start seeing updates from Sherlock Holmes himself reminiscing about his adventures throughout the year.  If you haven't already checked out the page, give it a follow!

Speaking of writing projects, I've had my next writing project on the back burner for a few months now, and my goal is to start working on it in the next month.  It's going to be geared towards younger readers, and my research will start in earnest this winter.  My hope is that I will be ready to start the writing process by the spring.

But my big goals this year are to contribute to the wider world of Sherlockiana.  I am chair of The Beacon Society's program committee, and the committee is working hard to gather resources to make teaching Sherlock Holmes to all ages easier for educators.  My hope is that our work with The Beacon Society will help educators who are passionate about Holmes (or even those who are casually interested) be able to easily find ideas and lessons that can be used in their classrooms, libraries and other settings.

A list of my Sherlockian resolutions wouldn't be complete without mentioning The Parallel Case of St. Louis, my home scion.  We are on a good roll lately, with great discussion and steady attendance numbers.  My goal is to keep that momentum while being open and inviting to any other Sherlockians in the St. Louis area that might be interested in joining us.  We are also planning a conference for sometime in the late spring/early summer, titled "Holmes in the Heartland."  Just thinking about this conference and the great group of people at these meetings makes me giddy.  

And last, but not least, is my stretch goal.  I am a huge fan of The Baker Street Journal, and am like a kid on Christmas each time it shows up in my mailbox.  I am in awe of the scholarly research regularly printed in those pages, and for years I have hoped to write an article for the BSJ.  In fact, the idea for The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street originally started out as an article for the Baker Street Journal, but it quickly ballooned to too large for an article.  So, my goal is to muster up the courage to submit something to the BSJ.  Will it be good enough to get in?  Who knows.  But, as Holmes tells Watson in THOR, "we can but try."

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Let Me Recommend This Book

Last week, I highlighted a few great books from MX Publishing, the publisher of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street.  Today, as another piece of my year in review posts, I want to highlight some of the best Sherlockian books I've read this year.  Not all of these were necessarily published in 2017, but they are all worth adding to your collection, if you haven't already...

From Holmes to Sherlock by Mattias Bostrom

I've already spoken at length about how great this book is.  But, no Sherlockian year in review will be complete this year without mention of this book.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this book should be in every Sherlockian collection.

Arthur and Sherlock by Michael Sims

This history of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most famous creation was all we could talk about at two meetings in a row this summer for The Parallel Case of St. Louis.  Michael Sims takes this history of literature's greatest detective and turns it into a page-turner in his own right. 

About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story is the Best edited by Christopher Redmond

Chance are, you probably know someone who wrote an essay in this book.  Because editor Chris Redmond made it a point to find 60 diverse authors to pen essays making an argument on which Sherlock Holmes story is the best.  Of course, we all know that SIGN is the best, but the other 59 authors' work are insightful and informative looks into how we view the different stories in the Canon.

The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye

The only pastiche on this list, because after reading Lydsay Faye's Sherlockian writing, nothing else will ever compare.  Fifteen short stories are collected in this book, and each one is better than the last.  Faye not only makes you feel like you are reading a story that Doyle misplaced a hundred years ago, but makes you truly appreciate the friendship between Holmes and Watson as her stories take you through their lives together.

The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library edited by Leslie Klinger

I admit that I have only read 5 out of the 10 volumes in this collection, but oh man, do I love these books!  Exhaustively researched and annotated, this collection is a cornerstone for a scholarly collection on Sherlock Holmes.  Even if you have read every story in the Canon over and over, Leslie Klinger will bring new insights and research to you on every page.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

You Will Find Some Books Over There

Last week's post centered around a Sherlockian book that didn't click with me.  I'm going in the complete opposite direction for the next two weeks and highlighting some Sherlockian books that I've really enjoyed over the years.  This week's post will focus solely on books from MX Publishing, the publisher of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street.  Next week, my best Sherlockian books of 2017.  In no particular order, here are some of my favorite titles from MX:

This is a whirlwind tour through the canon's short stories.  The title says it all.  Charlotte Anne Walters set the goal for herself to read a story a day for almost 2 months straight.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, life has other obligations.  So whether she's trying to keep her eyes open at night or fitting a story in on her subway ride to work, Walters charges ahead.  The result of her efforts is a concise and pleasant synopsis of each story with just enough personal details to relate to us all.  This is a book I find myself dipping back into repeatedly if I just need a quick refresher on a certain story.  It's a great resource and a fun read for anyone out there.

Sherlock Holmes on the Roof of the World by Thomas Kent Miller

After dispatching Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes disappeared, spending two years traveling in Tibet. Thomas Kent Miller's "Sherlock Holmes on the Roof of the World" is the first in a series filling in those missing years in the great detective's life. This is a quick and very enjoyable read. In the book, we find Holmes under the guise of Sigerson, a Norwegian explorer, meeting up with Horace Holly and Leo Vincey from H. Rider Haggard's novel "She" in a protected Buddhist library. From there, our three characters are the focal point of a fast paced mystery. Because Dr. Watson was not around during this point in Holmes' life, this story is narrated by Leo Vincey, and the narration style is more in the way of Haggard's adventures than Doyle's mysteries. This book was a delight to read, and if you are a Holmes fan, H. Rider Haggard adventure fan, or just a fan of a well told tale, you should give "Sherlock Holmes on the Roof of the World" a shot.

A Professor Reflects on Sherlock Holmes by Marino Alvarez

I've had the chance to work with Marino Alvarez on a writing project this year and have been very impressed with his canonical knowledge and professional demeanor.  So when I saw he had a book, it immediately jumped to the top of my TBR list.  I read his book this summer and the variety of essays in this collection were all a delight in their own different ways.  One essay may delve into the educational importance of the Sherlock Holmes stories while another analyzes Ronald Knox's influence on our hobby.  No matter the topic addressed, each essay is an insightful look into a facet of the Sherlockian world, and one that leaves the reader more informed after having read it.

A Scandal in Bohemia: A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel by Petr Kopl

Now, for something completely different!  Petr Kopl's colorful take on one of the best Holmes stories is one that will leave you wanting more.  That's good, because there's more in the series!  This graphic novel merges A Scandal in Bohemia with The Speckled Band, and inserts just enough new plot elements to make even an old school Sherlockian wonder what's coming next.  For a quick, fun read, this is the book for you.

Baker Street Beat by Dan Andriacco

Probably more well-known for his McCabe & Cody mystery series, Dan Andriacco's book "Baker Street Beat" is a true delight to read.  The contents of this book vary greatly.  From scholarly essays to scripts for radio plays to short pastiches, Andriacco does it all.  I read this on a car ride down to Texas this summer, and it made the time fly!

The Macdougall Twins Series by Derrick Belanger

Full disclosure: I've only read one of these books.  But to my credit, that's because my fifth graders keep snatching them up!  Derrick Belanger's series is aimed at young readers and introduces Sherlock Holmes to a new generation by using him as a character in a fun series with ten year old twin detectives.  They are a high interest series and although they are targeted to kids, they will bring a smile to the face of Sherlockians of any age.

Monday, December 4, 2017

I May As Well Give Up the Attempt at Once

Before I get started with this week’s blog post, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street got some nice shout outs recently. Dan Andriacco gave it a next review in his website, and I was interviewed by Derrick Belanger for I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere

Alright, I’m done rooting my own horn....

This week found me reading two  books that gave me very different feelings: one that I loved, and one that I fought and fought until I finally gave up and abandoned it.

The book I loved was Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp This book was the basis for my favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard. It was a fast paced read that was similar enough to the movie to make me smile in recognition, but different enough to keep me wondering what was next.

But this isn’t a blog about Die Hard (but it is the right time of year for that sort of thing....), which brings me to my other book. It was a Sherlockian book that many people have liked. But, man, it didn’t click for me. I am a believer in the idea that there are too many books in the world to read something you don’t want to. I knew early on this book wasn’t a good fit for me, but I kept coming back to it a few times a day for a few days until I finally gave in.

I kept at it because it was a Sherlockian book, and the author cares about this hobby as much as I do. They were very knowledgeable in their research and the book was well written, it just didn’t click for me. Had this book been on another topic and I had the same response, I would’ve bailed after 30 or so pages when I knew it wasn’t working for me.

But I’m willing to give all things Sherlockian the benefit of the doubt. To be honest, I think Sherlock Gnomes looks terrible. Nothing in that trailer looked interesting to me. But I’m excited for it to come out and introduce Holmes to new viewers who may one day become new readers.

There are plenty of other subsets of Sherlockiana that don’t particularly get me excited, but I’m glad they are out there for those people who do enjoy it. This may seem like a negative topic, but I’m happy that whether we are Johnlockers or chronology fanatics, we can all find a common ground in the 60 stories.

And when it comes to being a Sherlockian, as long as you enjoy the canon, welcome to the party, pal!